Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts"

New from Oxford University Press: Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts by Tracy Isaacs.

About the book, from the publisher:
Genocide, global warming, organizational negligence, and oppressive social practices are four examples of moral contexts in which the interplay between individuals and collectives complicate how we are to understand moral responsibility. Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts is a philosophical investigation of the complex moral landscape we find in collective situations such as these. Tracy Isaacs argues that an accurate understanding of moral responsibility in collective contexts requires attention to responsibility at the individual and collective levels. Part One establishes the normative significance of collective responsibility. Isaacs argues that collective responsibility is indispensible to providing a morally adequate account of collective actions such as genocide, and that without it even individual responsibility in genocide would not make sense. Isaacs explains the concepts of collective intention and collective intentional action, provides accounts of collective moral responsibility and collective guilt, and defends collective responsibility against objections, including the objection that collective responsibility holds some responsible for the actions of others. Part Two focuses on individual responsibility in collective contexts. Isaacs claims that individuals are not morally responsible for collective actions as such, but they can be responsible in collective actions for the parts they play. She argues that the concept of collective obligation can help to address large scale global challenges such as global warming, environmental degradation, and widespread poverty and malnutrition. Finally, Isaacs discusses cases of widespread ignorance and participation in wrongful social practice, whether it constitutes an excuse, and how to effect social change in those conditions.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"Line in the Sand"

New from Princeton University Press: Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border by Rachel St. John.

About the book, from the publisher:
Line in the Sand details the dramatic transformation of the western U.S.-Mexico border from its creation at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848 to the emergence of the modern boundary line in the first decades of the twentieth century. In this sweeping narrative, Rachel St. John explores how this boundary changed from a mere line on a map to a clearly marked and heavily regulated divide between the United States and Mexico. Focusing on the desert border to the west of the Rio Grande, this book explains the origins of the modern border and places the line at the center of a transnational history of expanding capitalism and state power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Moving across local, regional, and national scales, St. John shows how government officials, Native American raiders, ranchers, railroad builders, miners, investors, immigrants, and smugglers contributed to the rise of state power on the border and developed strategies to navigate the increasingly regulated landscape. Over the border's history, the U.S. and Mexican states gradually developed an expanding array of official laws, ad hoc arrangements, government agents, and physical barriers that did not close the line, but made it a flexible barrier that restricted the movement of some people, goods, and animals without impeding others. By the 1930s, their efforts had created the foundations of the modern border control apparatus.

Drawing on extensive research in U.S. and Mexican archives, Line in the Sand weaves together a transnational history of how an undistinguished strip of land became the significant and symbolic space of state power and national definition that we know today.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

"A World on Fire"

New from Random House: A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman.

About the book, from the publisher:
Acclaimed historian Amanda Foreman follows the phenomenal success of her New York Times bestseller Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire with her long-awaited second work of nonfiction: the fascinating story of the American Civil War and the major role played by Britain and its citizens in that epic struggle.

Even before the first rumblings of secession shook the halls of Congress, British involvement in the coming schism was inevitable. Britain was dependent on the South for cotton, and in turn the Confederacy relied almost exclusively on Britain for guns, bullets, and ships. The Union sought to block any diplomacy between the two and consistently teetered on the brink of war with Britain. For four years the complex web of relationships between the countries led to defeats and victories both minute and history-making. In A World on Fire, Amanda Foreman examines the fraught relations from multiple angles while she introduces characters both humble and grand, bringing them to vivid life over the course of her sweeping and brilliant narrative.

Between 1861 and 1865, thousands of British citizens volunteered for service on both sides of the Civil War. From the first cannon blasts on Fort Sumter to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, they served as officers and infantrymen, sailors and nurses, blockade runners and spies. Through personal letters, diaries, and journals, Foreman has woven together their experiences to form a panoramic yet intimate view of the war on the front lines, in the prison camps, and in the great cities of both the Union and the Confederacy. Through the eyes of these brave volunteers we see the details of the struggle for life and the great and powerful forces that threatened to demolish a nation.

In the drawing rooms of London and the offices of Washington, on muddy fields and aboard packed ships, Foreman reveals the decisions made, the beliefs held and contested, and the personal triumphs and sacrifices that ultimately led to the reunification of America. A World on Fire is a complex and groundbreaking work that will surely cement Amanda Foreman’s position as one of the most influential historians of our time.
Visit Amanda Foreman's website.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"White Flight/Black Flight"

New from Cornell University Press: White Flight/Black Flight: The Dynamics of Racial Change in an American Neighborhood by Rachael A. Woldoff.

About the book, from the publisher:
Urban residential integration is often fleeting—a brief snapshot that belies a complex process of racial turnover in many U.S. cities. White Flight/Black Flight takes readers inside a neighborhood that has shifted rapidly and dramatically in race composition over the last two decades. The book presents a portrait of a working-class neighborhood in the aftermath of white flight, illustrating cultural clashes that accompany racial change as well as common values that transcend race, from the perspectives of three groups: white stayers, black pioneers, and “second-wave” blacks.

Rachael A. Woldoff offers a fresh look at race and neighborhoods by documenting a two-stage process of neighborhood transition and focusing on the perspectives of two understudied groups: newly arriving black residents and whites who have stayed in the neighborhood. Woldoff describes the period of transition when white residents still remain, though in diminishing numbers, and a second, less discussed stage of racial change: black flight. She reveals what happens after white flight is complete: “Pioneer” blacks flee to other neighborhoods or else adjust to their new segregated residential environment by coping with the loss of relationships with their longer-term white neighbors, signs of community decline, and conflicts with the incoming second wave of black neighbors. Readers will find several surprising and compelling twists to the white flight story related to positive relations between elderly stayers and the striving pioneers, conflict among black residents, and differences in cultural understandings of what constitutes crime and disorder.

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Turning the Tables"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Turning the Tables: Restaurants and the Rise of the American Middle Class, 1880-1920 by Andrew P. Haley.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the nineteenth century, restaurants served French food to upper-class Americans with aristocratic pretensions, but by the twentieth century, even the best restaurants dished up ethnic and American foods to middle-class urbanites spending a night on the town. In Turning the Tables, Andrew Haley examines the transformation of American public dining at the start of the twentieth century and argues that the birth of the modern American restaurant helped establish the middle class as the arbiter of American culture.

Early twentieth-century battles over French-language menus, scientific eating, ethnic restaurants, unescorted women, tipping, and servantless restaurants pitted the middle class against the elite. United by their shared preferences for simpler meals and English-language menus, middle-class diners defied established conventions and successfully pressured restaurateurs to embrace cosmopolitan ideas of dining that reflected the preferences and desires of middle-class patrons.

Drawing on culinary magazines, menus, restaurant journals, and newspaper accounts, including many that have never before been examined by historians, Haley traces material changes to restaurants at the turn of the century that demonstrate that the clash between the upper class and the middle class over American consumer culture shaped the "tang and feel" of life in the twentieth century.
Visit Andrew Haley's blog.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


New from W.W. Norton: Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America by Richard White.

About the book, from the publisher:
A new, incisive history of the transcontinental railroads and how they transformed America in the decades after the Civil War.

The transcontinental railroads of the late nineteenth century were the first corporate behemoths. Their attempts to generate profits from proliferating debt sparked devastating panics in the U.S. economy. Their dependence on public largess drew them into the corridors of power, initiating new forms of corruption. Their operations rearranged space and time, and remade the landscape of the West. As wheel and rail, car and coal, they opened new worlds of work and ways of life. Their discriminatory rates sparked broad opposition and a new antimonopoly politics.

With characteristic originality, range, and authority, Richard White shows the transcontinentals to be pivotal actors in the making of modern America. But the triumphal myths of the golden spike, robber barons larger than life, and an innovative capitalism all die here. Instead we have a new vision of the Gilded Age, often darkly funny, that shows history to be rooted in failure as well as success.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Nothing to Hide"

New from Yale University Press: Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff between Privacy and Security by Daniel J. Solove.

About the book, from the publisher:
"If you've got nothing to hide," many people say, "you shouldn't worry about government surveillance." Others argue that we must sacrifice privacy for security. But as Daniel J. Solove argues in this important book, these arguments and many others are flawed. They are based on mistaken views about what it means to protect privacy and the costs and benefits of doing so. The debate between privacy and security has been framed incorrectly as a zero-sum game in which we are forced to choose between one value and the other. Why can't we have both?

In this concise and accessible book, Solove exposes the fallacies of many pro-security arguments that have skewed law and policy to favor security at the expense of privacy. Protecting privacy isn't fatal to security measures; it merely involves adequate oversight and regulation. Solove traces the history of the privacy-security debate from the Revolution to the present day. He explains how the law protects privacy and examines concerns with new technologies. He then points out the failings of our current system and offers specific remedies. Nothing to Hide makes a powerful and compelling case for reaching a better balance between privacy and security and reveals why doing so is essential to protect our freedom and democracy.
Daniel J. Solove is the John Marshall Harlan Research Professor of Law at the George Washington University Law School.  His books include The Future of Reputation and Understanding Privacy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Renegade Women"

New from The Johns Hopkins University Press: Renegade Women: Gender, Identity, and Boundaries in the Early Modern Mediterranean by Eric R Dursteler.

About the book, from the publisher:
This book uses the stories of early modern women in the Mediterranean who left their birthplaces, families, and religions to reveal the complex space women of the period occupied socially and politically.

In the narrow sense, the word "renegade" as used in the early modern Mediterranean referred to a Christian who had abandoned his or her religion to become a Muslim. With Renegade Women, Eric R Dursteler deftly redefines and broadens the term to include anyone who crossed the era's and region's religious, political, social, and gender boundaries. Drawing on archival research, he relates three tales of women whose lives afford great insight into both the specific experiences and condition of females in, and the broader cultural and societal practices and mores of, the early Mediterranean.

Through Beatrice Michiel of Venice, who fled an overbearing husband to join her renegade brother in Constantinople and took the name Fatima Hatun, Dursteler discusses how women could convert and relocate in order to raise their personal and familial status. In the parallel tales of the Christian Elena Civalelli and the Muslim Mihale Šatorovic, who both entered a Venetian convent to avoid unwanted, arranged marriages, he finds courageous young women who used the frontier between Ottoman and Venetian states to exercise a surprising degree of agency over their lives. And in the actions of four Muslim women of the Greek island of Milos—Aissè, her sisters Eminè and Catigè, and their mother, Maria—who together left their home for Corfu and converted from Islam to Christianity to escape Aissè's emotionally and financially neglectful husband, Dursteler unveils how a woman's attempt to control her own life ignited an international firestorm that threatened Venetian-Ottoman relations.

A truly fascinating narrative of female instrumentality, Renegade Women illuminates the nexus of identity and conversion in the early modern Mediterranean through global and local lenses. Scholars of the period will find this to be a richly informative and thoroughly engrossing read.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"In the Shadow of Shari’ah"

New from Columbia University Press: In the Shadow of Shari’ah: Islam, Islamic Law, and Democracy in Pakistan by Matthew J. Nelson.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the Shadow of Shari'ah sets out to prove that Islam and the democratic ethos are neither compatible nor incompatible in any permanent or specific sense. Rather, the two work more or less in concert in relation to the historically embedded choices of individual Muslims and their specific approaches to Islamic law.

Studies of shari'ah, or Islamic law, are at the heart of several important debates, yet carefully researched scholarship on the terms of Islamic law is rare. Matthew J. Nelson launches a historically embedded analysis of shari'ah in Pakistan's largest and most influential province, Punjab, to highlight the relationships among Islam, Islamic law, and democracy and the ways in which different cultural and historical contexts transform each entity. Nelson begins with colonial and postcolonial efforts to introduce shari'ah into an environment tied to "tribal" custom. He then examines the way in which electoral accountability came to privilege those who could simultaneously sustain Islamic law "in theory" and customary law "in practice." Drawing attention to the interaction of formal and informal legal and political institutions over time, Nelson argues that a deeper understanding of the relationship between Islam and democracy requires a more sophisticated appreciation of the complex legal strategies adopted by individual Muslims.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"Criminals and Victims"

New from Stanford University Press: Criminals and Victims by W. David Allen.

About the book, from the publisher:
Criminals and Victims presents an economic analysis of decisions made by criminals and victims of crime before, during, and after a crime or victimization occurs. Its main purpose is to illustrate how the application of analytical tools from economics can help us to understand the causes and consequences of criminal and victim choices, aiding efforts to deter or reduce the consequences of crime. By examining these decisions along a logical timeline over which crimes take place, we can begin to think more clearly about how policy effects change when it is targeted at specific decisions within the body of a crime.

This book differs from others by recognizing the timeline of a crime, paying particular attention to victim decisions, and examining each step in the crime cycle at the micro-level. It demonstrates that criminals plan their crimes in systematic, economically logical ways; that deterring the destruction of criminal evidence may deter crime in general; and that white-collar criminals exhibit recidivism patterns not unlike those of street criminals. It further shows that the degree of criminality in a society motivates a variety of self-protection behaviors by potential victims; that not all victim resistance makes matters worse (and some may help); and that victims who report their crimes do not receive high returns for going to the police, helping to explain why some crimes ultimately go unreported.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"The Clamorgans"

New from Hill and Wang: The Clamorgans: One Family’s History of Race in America by Julie Winch.

About the book, from the publisher:
The historian Julie Winch uses her sweeping, multigenerational history of the unforgettable Clamorgans to chronicle how one family navigated race in America from the 1780s through the 1950s. What she discovers overturns decades of received academic wisdom. Far from an impermeable wall fixed by whites, race opened up a moral gray zone that enterprising blacks manipulated to whatever advantage they could obtain.

The Clamorgan clan traces to the family patriarch Jacques Clamorgan, a French adventurer of questionable ethics who bought up, or at least claimed to have bought up, huge tracts of land around St. Louis. On his death, he bequeathed his holdings to his mixedrace, illegitimate heirs, setting off nearly two centuries of litigation. The result is a window on a remarkable family that by the early twentieth century variously claimed to be black, Creole, French, Spanish, Brazilian, Jewish, and white. The Clamorgans is a remarkable counterpoint to the central claim of whiteness studies, namely that race as a social construct was manipulated by whites to justify discrimination. Winch finds in the Clamorgans generations upon generations of men and women who studiously negotiated the very fluid notion of race to further their own interests. Winch’s remarkable achievement is to capture in the vivid lives of this unforgettable family the degree to which race was open to manipulation by Americans on both sides of the racial divide.
Read an excerpt from The Clamorgans.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"The Inner Life of Empires"

New from Princeton University Press: The Inner Life of Empires: An Eighteenth-Century History by Emma Rothschild.

About the book, from the publisher:
They were abolitionists, speculators, slave owners, government officials, and occasional politicians. They were observers of the anxieties and dramas of empire. And they were from one family. The Inner Life of Empires tells the intimate history of the Johnstones--four sisters and seven brothers who lived in Scotland and around the globe in the fast-changing eighteenth century. Piecing together their voyages, marriages, debts, and lawsuits, and examining their ideas, sentiments, and values, renowned historian Emma Rothschild illuminates a tumultuous period that created the modern economy, the British Empire, and the philosophical Enlightenment.

One of the sisters joined a rebel army, was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle, and escaped in disguise in 1746. Her younger brother was a close friend of Adam Smith and David Hume. Another brother was fluent in Persian and Bengali, and married to a celebrated poet. He was the owner of a slave known only as "Bell or Belinda," who journeyed from Calcutta to Virginia, was accused in Scotland of infanticide, and was the last person judged to be a slave by a court in the British isles. In Grenada, India, Jamaica, and Florida, the Johnstones embodied the connections between European, American, and Asian empires. Their family history offers insights into a time when distinctions between the public and private, home and overseas, and slavery and servitude were in constant flux.

Based on multiple archives, documents, and letters, The Inner Life of Empires looks at one family's complex story to describe the origins of the modern political, economic, and intellectual world.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Holy Harlots"

New from the University of California Press: Holy Harlots: Femininity, Sexuality, and Black Magic in Brazil by Kelly E. Hayes.

About the book, from the publisher:
Holy Harlots examines the intersections of social marginality, morality, and magic in contemporary Brazil by analyzing the beliefs and religious practices related to the Afro-Brazilian spirit entity Pomba Gira. Said to be the disembodied spirit of an unruly harlot, Pomba Gira is a controversial figure in Brazil. Devotees maintain that Pomba Gira possesses an intimate knowledge of human affairs and the mystical power to intervene in the human world. Others view this entity more ambivalently. Kelly E. Hayes provides an intimate and engaging account of the intricate relationship between Pomba Gira and one of her devotees, Nazaré da Silva. Combining Nazaré’s spiritual biography with analysis of the gender politics and violence that shapes life on the periphery of Rio de Janeiro, Hayes highlights Pomba Gira’s role in the rivalries, relationships, and struggles of everyday life in urban Brazil.
Among the early praise for the book:
"An enthralling account of the spirits of the street, whose stories are as complex as those of their human hosts. Long ignored both by governments and by scholars, here these spirits and persons finally acquire full rights to a rich representation. There is no book quite like it."
—Paul Christopher Johnson

"Hayes constructs a cogent and passionate account that masterfully weaves the daily struggles, hopes, and resilience of women living in a favela with keen, unassuming, and often witty insights about fieldwork and the ethnographic encounter.
—Raquel Romberg

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"A High Price"

New from Oxford University Press: A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism by Daniel Byman.

About the book, from the publisher:
In the sixty-plus years of the Jewish state's existence, Israeli governments have exhausted almost every option in defending their country against terror attacks. Israel has survived and even thrived--but both its citizens and its Arab neighbors have paid dearly.

In A High Price, Daniel Byman breaks down the dual myths of Israeli omnipotence and--conversely--ineptitude in fighting terror, offering instead a nuanced, definitive historical account of the state's bold but often failed efforts to fight terrorist groups. The product of painstaking research and countless interviews, the book chronicles different periods of Israeli counterterrorism. Beginning with the violent border disputes that emerged after Israel's founding in 1948, Byman charts the rise of Yasir Arafat's Fatah and leftist groups such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine--organizations that ushered in the era of international terrorism epitomized by the 1972 hostage-taking at the Munich Olympics. Byman follows how Israel fought these groups and new ones, such as Hamas, in the decades that follow, with particular attention to the grinding and painful struggle during the second intifada. Israel's debacles in Lebanon against groups like the Lebanese Hizballah are also examined in-depth, as is the country's problematic response to Jewish terrorist groups that have struck at Arabs and Israelis seeking peace.

In surveying Israel's response to terror, the author points to the coups of shadowy Israeli intelligence services, the much-emulated use of defensive measures such as sky marshals on airplanes, and the role of controversial techniques such as targeted killings and the security barrier that separates Israel from Palestinian areas. Equally instructive are the shortcomings that have undermined Israel's counterterrorism goals, including a disregard for long-term planning and a failure to recognize the long-term political repercussions of counterterrorism tactics.

Israel is often a laboratory: new terrorist techniques are often used against it first, and Israel in turn develops innovative countermeasures that other states copy. A High Price expertly explains how Israel's successes and failures can serve to inform all countries fighting terrorism today.
The Page 69 Test: Daniel Byman's The Five Front War.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Wonder, Image, and Cosmos in Medieval Islam"

New from Yale University Press: Wonder, Image, and Cosmos in Medieval Islam by Persis Berlekamp.

About the book, from the publisher:
This original book untangles fundamental confusions about historical relationships among Islam, representational images, and philosophy. Closely examining some of the most meaningful and best preserved premodern illustrated manuscripts of Islamic cosmographies, Persis Berlekamp refutes the assertion often made by other historians of medieval Islamic art that, while representational images did exist, they did not serve religious purposes.

The author focuses on widely disseminated Islamic images of the wonders of creation, ranging from angels to human-snatching birds, and argues that these illustrated manuscripts aimed to induce wonder at God's creation, as was their stated purpose. She tracks the various ways that images advanced that purpose in the genre's formative milieu--the century and a half following the Mongol conquest of the Islamic East in 1258. Delving into social history and into philosophical ideas relevant to manuscript and image production, Berlekamp shows that philosophy occupied an established, if controversial, position within Islam. She thereby radically reframes representational images within the history of Islam.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"The Burgher and the Whore"

New from Oxford University Press: The Burgher and the Whore: Prostitution in Early Modern Amsterdam by Lotte van de Pol.

About the book, from the publisher:
Amsterdam was, after London and Paris, the third largest city in early modern Europe, and was renowned throughout Europe for its widespread and visible prostitution. Delving deep into a wide range of sources, but making particular use of the transcripts of thousands of trials, The Burgher and the Whore reconstructs Amsterdam's whoredom in detail. The colourful and fascinating descriptions of the prostitutes, their bawds, their clients, and the police shed new light on the cultural, social, and economic conditions of the lives of poor women in a seafaring society.

Lotte van de Pol explores how the vice trade was embedded in Amsterdam's society, economy, and judicial system, and how legislation and policing were shaped by misogynist attitudes towards women and fear of God's wrath and venereal diseases towards sex. The story concentrates on the people living at the margins of a rich metropolis, in which there was a large surplus of women, many of them poor immigrants with little prospect of marriage. Many changes are visible in the 150 years under scrutiny, including the view of prostitution from immorality to trade, and of prostitutes from whores and criminals to paupers. The result is a book that can be read as the history of the Dutch Golden Age from below.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Moscow Prime Time"

New from Cornell University Press: Moscow Prime Time: How the Soviet Union Built the Media Empire That Lost the Cultural Cold War by Kristin Roth-Ey.

About the book, from the publisher:
When Nikita Khrushchev visited Hollywood in 1959 only to be scandalized by a group of scantily clad actresses, his message was blunt: Soviet culture would soon consign the mass culture of the West, epitomized by Hollywood, to the "dustbin of history." In Moscow Prime Time, a portrait of the Soviet broadcasting and film industries and of everyday Soviet consumers from the end of World War II through the 1970s, Kristin Roth-Ey shows us how and why Khrushchev’s ambitious vision ultimately failed to materialize.

The USSR surged full force into the modern media age after World War II, building cultural infrastructures—and audiences—that were among the world’s largest. Soviet people were enthusiastic radio listeners, TV watchers, and moviegoers, and the great bulk of what they were consuming was not the dissident culture that made headlines in the West, but orthodox, made-in-the-USSR content. This, then, was Soviet culture’s real prime time and a major achievement for a regime that had long touted easy, everyday access to a socialist cultural experience as a birthright. Yet Soviet success also brought complex and unintended consequences.

Emphasizing such factors as the rise of the single-family household and of a more sophisticated consumer culture, the long reach and seductive influence of foreign media, and the workings of professional pride and raw ambition in the media industries, Roth-Ey shows a Soviet media empire transformed from within in the postwar era. The result, she finds, was something dynamic and volatile: a new Soviet culture, with its center of gravity shifted from the lecture hall to the living room, and a new brand of cultural experience, at once personal, immediate, and eclectic—a new Soviet culture increasingly similar, in fact, to that of its self-defined enemy, the mass culture of the West. By the 1970s, the Soviet media empire, stretching far beyond its founders’ wildest dreams, was busily undermining the very promise of a unique Soviet culture—and visibly losing the cultural cold war. Moscow Prime Time is the first book to untangle the paradoxes of Soviet success and failure in the postwar media age.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Kids Don't Want to Fail"

New from Harvard University Press: Kids Don't Want to Fail: Oppositional Culture and the Black-White Achievement Gap by Angel L. Harris.

About the book, from the publisher:
Understanding the causes of the racial achievement gap in American education—and then addressing it with effective programs—is one of the most urgent problems communities and educators face.

For many years, the most popular explanation for the achievement gap has been the “oppositional culture theory”: the idea that black students underperform in secondary schools because of a group culture that devalues learning and sees academic effort as “acting white.” Despite lack of evidence for this belief, classroom teachers accept it, with predictable self-fulfilling results. In a careful quantitative assessment of the oppositional culture hypothesis, Angel L. Harris tested its empirical implications systematically and broadened his analysis to include data from British schools. From every conceivable angle of examination, the oppositional culture theory fell flat.

Despite achieving less in school, black students value schooling more than their white counterparts do. Black kids perform badly in high school not because they don’t want to succeed but because they enter without the necessary skills. Harris finds that the achievement gap starts to open up in preadolescence—when cumulating socioeconomic and health disadvantages inhibit skills development and when students start to feel the impact of lowered teacher expectations.

Kids Don’t Want to Fail is must reading for teachers, academics, policy makers, and anyone interested in understanding the intersection of race and education.

Friday, May 13, 2011

"An Empire of Ice"

New from Yale University Press: An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science by Edward J. Larson.

About the book, from the publisher:
Published to coincide with the centenary of the first expeditions to reach the South Pole, An Empire of Ice presents a fascinating new take on Antarctic exploration. Retold with added information, it's the first book to place the famed voyages of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, his British rivals Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, and others in a larger scientific, social, and geopolitical context.

Efficient, well prepared, and focused solely on the goal of getting to his destination and back, Amundsen has earned his place in history as the first to reach the South Pole. Scott, meanwhile, has been reduced in the public mind to a dashing incompetent who stands for little more than relentless perseverance in the face of inevitable defeat. An Empire of Ice offers a new perspective on the Antarctic expeditions of the early twentieth century by looking at the British efforts for what they actually were: massive scientific enterprises in which reaching the South Pole was but a spectacular sideshow. By focusing on the larger purpose, Edward Larson deepens our appreciation of the explorers' achievements, shares little-known stories, and shows what the Heroic Age of Antarctic discovery was really about.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"A Long Goodbye"

New from Harvard University Press: A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan by Artemy M. Kalinovsky.

About the book, from the publisher:
The conflict in Afghanistan looms large in the collective consciousness of Americans. What has the United States achieved, and how will it withdraw without sacrificing those gains? The Soviet Union confronted these same questions in the 1980s, and Artemy Kalinovsky’s history of the USSR’s nine-year struggle to extricate itself from Afghanistan and bring its troops home provides a sobering perspective on exit options in the region.

What makes Kalinovsky’s intense account both timely and important is its focus not on motives for initiating the conflict but on the factors that prevented the Soviet leadership from ending a demoralizing war. Why did the USSR linger for so long, given that key elites recognized the blunder of the mission shortly after the initial deployment?

Newly available archival material, supplemented by interviews with major actors, allows Kalinovsky to reconstruct the fierce debates among Soviet diplomats, KGB officials, the Red Army, and top Politburo figures. The fear that withdrawal would diminish the USSR’s status as leader of the Third World is palpable in these disagreements, as are the competing interests of Afghan factions and the Soviet Union’s superpower rival in the West. This book challenges many widely held views about the actual costs of the conflict to the Soviet leadership, and its findings illuminate the Cold War context of a military engagement that went very wrong, for much too long.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Nazis on the Run"

New from Oxford University Press: Nazis on the Run: How Hitler's Henchmen Fled Justice by Gerald Steinacher.

About the book, from the publisher:
After World War II, rumors circulated that a secret organization named "Odessa" had smuggled Nazi war criminals out of Europe, a rumor further fueled by the wildly popular novel The Odessa File. But "Odessa" was nothing more than a myth. Now, in Nazis on the Run, historian Gerald Steinacher provides the true story of how the Nazis escaped their fate.

Steinacher not only reveals how Nazi war criminals escaped from justice at the end of the Second World War, fleeing through the Tyrolean Alps to Italian seaports, but he also highlights the key roles played by the Red Cross, the Vatican, and the Secret Services of the major powers. The book takes a hard look at the International Committee of the Red Cross, proving that identification papers issued by the Red Cross made it possible for thousands of Nazis, war criminals, and collaborators--including Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengale--to slip through the hands of justice and to find refuge in North and South America, Spain, and the Near East. Steinacher underscores the importance of the South Tyrol as a "ratline" from Germany to Italy and also reveals that many figures in the Catholic Church--sometimes knowingly, other times unwittingly--were involved in large-scale Nazi smuggling, often driven by the fear of an imminent communist takeover of Italy. Finally, the book documents how the Counter Intelligence Corps and later the CIA recruited former SS men to advise U.S. intelligence agencies and smuggled them out of Soviet-occupied areas of Austria and Eastern Europe into Italy and on to South America.

Based on extensive research in newly opened archives, Nazis on the Run is the first book to provide a complete picture of this little-known story of justice denied.

Monday, May 9, 2011

"Fighting Their Own Battles"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Fighting Their Own Battles: Mexican Americans, African Americans, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Texas by Brian D. Behnken.

About the book, from the publisher:
Between 1940 and 1975, Mexican Americans and African Americans in Texas fought a number of battles in court, at the ballot box, in schools, and on the streets to eliminate segregation and state-imposed racism. Although both groups engaged in civil rights struggles as victims of similar forms of racism and discrimination, they were rarely unified. In Fighting Their Own Battles, Brian Behnken explores the cultural dissimilarities, geographical distance, class tensions, and organizational differences that all worked to separate Mexican Americans and blacks.

Behnken further demonstrates that prejudices on both sides undermined the potential for a united civil rights campaign. Coalition building and cooperative civil rights efforts foundered on the rocks of perceived difference, competition, distrust, and, oftentimes, outright racism. Behnken's in-depth study reveals the major issues of contention for the two groups, their different strategies to win rights, and significant thematic developments within the two civil rights struggles. By comparing the histories of these movements in one of the few states in the nation to witness two civil rights movements, Behnken bridges the fields of Mexican American and African American history, revealing the myriad causes that ultimately led these groups to "fight their own battles."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"The Next Convergence"

New from Farrar, Straus and Giroux: The Next Convergence: The Future of Economic Growth in a Multispeed World by Michael Spence.

About the book, from the publisher:
With the British Industrial Revolution, part of the world’s population started to experience extraordinary economic growth—leading to enormous gaps in wealth and living standards between the industrialized West and the rest of the world. This pattern of divergence reversed after World War II, and now we are midway through a century of high and accelerating growth in the developing world and a new convergence with the advanced countries—a trend that is set to reshape the world.

Michael Spence, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, explains what happened to cause this dramatic shift in the prospects of the five billion people who live in developing countries. The growth rates are extraordinary, and continuing them presents unprecedented challenges in governance, international coordination, and ecological sustainability. The implications for those living in the advanced countries are great but little understood.

Spence clearly and boldly describes what’s at stake for all of us as he looks ahead to how the global economy will develop over the next fifty years. The Next Convergence is certain to spark a heated debate how best to move forward in the post-crisis period and reset the balance between national and international economic interests, and short-term fixes and long-term sustainability.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"When Wall Street Met Main Street"

New from Harvard University Press: When Wall Street Met Main Street: The Quest for an Investors' Democracy by Julia C. Ott.

About the book, from the publisher:
The financial crisis that began in 2008 has made Americans keenly aware of the enormous impact Wall Street has on the economic well-being of the nation and its citizenry. How did financial markets and institutions—commonly perceived as marginal and elitist at the beginning of the twentieth century—come to be seen as the bedrock of American capitalism? How did stock investment—once considered disreputable and dangerous—first become a mass practice?

Julia Ott tells the story of how, between the rise of giant industrial corporations and the Crash of 1929, the federal government, corporations, and financial institutions campaigned to universalize investment, with the goal of providing individual investors with a stake in the economy and the nation. As these distributors of stocks and bonds established a broad, national market for financial securities, they debated the distribution of economic power, the proper role of government, and the meaning of citizenship under modern capitalism.

By 1929, the incidence of stock ownership had risen to engulf one quarter of American households in the looming financial disaster. Accordingly, the federal government assumed responsibility for protecting citizen-investors by regulating the financial securities markets. By recovering the forgotten history of this initial phase of mass investment and the issues surrounding it, Ott enriches and enlightens contemporary debates over economic reform.

Friday, May 6, 2011

"The Taming of the Demons"

New from Yale University Press: The Taming of the Demons: Violence and Liberation in Tibetan Buddhism by Jacob P. Dalton.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Taming of the Demons examines mythic and ritual themes of violence, demon taming, and blood sacrifice in Tibetan Buddhism. Taking as its starting point Tibet’s so-called age of fragmentation (842 to 986 C.E.), the book draws on previously unstudied manuscripts discovered in the “library cave” near Dunhuang, on the old Silk Road. These ancient documents, it argues, demonstrate how this purportedly inactive period in Tibetan history was in fact crucial to the Tibetan assimilation of Buddhism, and particularly to the spread of violent themes from tantric Buddhism into Tibet at the local and the popular levels. Having shed light on this “dark age” of Tibetan history, the second half of the book turns to how, from the late tenth century onward, the period came to play a vital symbolic role in Tibet, as a violent historical “other” against which the Tibetan Buddhist tradition defined itself.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Dreaming of Dixie"

New from the University of North Carolina Press: Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture by Karen L. Cox.

About the book, from the publisher:
From the late nineteenth century through World War II, popular culture portrayed the American South as a region ensconced in its antebellum past, draped in moonlight and magnolias, and represented by such southern icons as the mammy, the belle, the chivalrous planter, white-columned mansions, and even bolls of cotton.

In Dreaming of Dixie, Karen Cox shows that the chief purveyors of this constructed nostalgia for the Old South were outsiders of the region, especially advertising agencies, musicians, publishers, radio personalities, writers, and filmmakers playing to consumers' anxiety about modernity by marketing the South as a region still dedicated to America's pastoral traditions. Cox examines how southerners themselves embraced the imaginary romance of the region's past, particularly in the tourist trade as southern states and cities sought to capitalize on popular perceptions by showcasing their Old South heritage. Only when television emerged as the most influential medium of popular culture did views of the South begin to change, as news coverage of the civil rights movement brought images of violence, protest, and conflict in the South into people's living rooms. Until then, Cox argues, most Americans remained content with their romantic vision of Dixie.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Heaven in the American Imagination"

New from Oxford University Press: Heaven in the American Imagination by Gary Scott Smith.

About the book, from the publisher:
Does heaven exist? If so, what is it like? And how does one get in? Throughout history, painters, poets, philosophers, pastors, and many ordinary people have pondered these questions. Perhaps no other topic captures the popular imagination quite like heaven.

Gary Scott Smith examines how Americans from the Puritans to the present have imagined heaven. He argues that whether Americans have perceived heaven as reality or fantasy, as God's home or a human invention, as a source of inspiration and comfort or an opiate that distracts from earthly life, or as a place of worship or a perpetual playground has varied largely according to the spirit of the age. In the colonial era, conceptions of heaven focused primarily on the glory of God. For the Victorians, heaven was a warm, comfortable home where people would live forever with their family and friends. Today, heaven is often less distinctively Christian and more of a celestial entertainment center or a paradise where everyone can reach his full potential.

Drawing on an astounding array of sources, including works of art, music, sociology, psychology, folklore, liturgy, sermons, poetry, fiction, jokes, and devotional books, Smith paints a sweeping, provocative portrait of what Americans-from Jonathan Edwards to Mitch Albom-have thought about heaven.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America"

New from the University of Chicago Press: Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America by Margaret Morganroth Gullette.

About the book, from the publisher:
Let’s face it: almost everyone fears growing older. We worry about losing our looks, our health, our jobs, our self-esteem—and being supplanted in work and love by younger people. It feels like the natural, inevitable consequence of the passing years, But what if it’s not? What if nearly everything that we think of as the “natural” process of aging is anything but?

In Agewise, renowned cultural critic Margaret Morganroth Gullette reveals that much of what we dread about aging is actually the result of ageism—which we can, and should, battle as strongly as we do racism, sexism, and other forms of bigotry. Drawing on provocative and under-reported evidence from biomedicine, literature, economics, and personal stories, Gullette probes the ageism that drives discontent with our bodies, our selves, and our accomplishments—and makes us easy prey for marketers who want to sell us an illusory vision of youthful perfection. Even worse, rampant ageism causes society to discount, and at times completely discard, the wisdom and experience acquired by people over the course of adulthood. The costs—both collective and personal—of this culture of decline are almost incalculable, diminishing our workforce, robbing younger people of hope for a decent later life, and eroding the satisfactions and sense of productivity that should animate our later years.

Once we open our eyes to the pervasiveness of ageism, however, we can begin to fight it—and Gullette lays out ambitious plans for the whole life course, from teaching children anti-ageism to fortifying the social safety nets, and thus finally making possible the real pleasures and opportunities promised by the new longevity. A bracing, controversial call to arms, Agewise will surprise, enlighten, and, perhaps most important, bring hope to readers of all ages.

Monday, May 2, 2011

"The English Aristocracy, 1070-1272"

New from Yale University Press: The English Aristocracy, 1070-1272: A Social Transformation by David Crouch.

About the book, from the publisher:
William the Conqueror's victory in 1066 was the beginning of a period of major transformation for medieval English aristocrats. In this groundbreaking book, David Crouch examines for the first time the fate of the English aristocracy between the reigns of the Conqueror and Edward I. Offering an original explanation of medieval society—one that no longer employs traditional "feudal" or "bastard feudal" models—Crouch argues that society remade itself around the emerging principle of nobility in the generations on either side of 1200, marking the beginning of the ancien régime.

The book describes the transformation in aristocrats' expectations, conduct, piety, and status; in expressions of social domination; and in the relationship with the monarchy. Synchronizing English social history with non-English scholarship, Crouch places England's experience of change within a broader European transformation and highlights England's important role in the process. With his accustomed skill, Crouch redefines a fascinating era and the noble class that emerged from it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Inventing Stonewall Jackson"

New from the LSU Press: Inventing Stonewall Jackson: A Civil War Hero in History and Memory by Wallace Hettle.

About the book, from the publisher:
Historians’ attempts to understand legendary Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson have proved uneven at best and often contentious. An occasionally enigmatic and eccentric college professor before the Civil War, Jackson died midway through the conflict, leaving behind no memoirs and relatively few surviving letters or documents. In Inventing Stonewall Jackson, Wallace Hettle offers an innovative and distinctive approach to interpreting Stonewall by examining the lives and agendas of those authors who shape our current understanding of General Jackson.

Newspaper reporters, friends, relatives, and fellow soldiers first wrote about Jackson immediately following the Civil War. Most of them, according to Hettle, used portions of their own life stories to frame that of the mythic general. Hettle argues that the legend of Jackson’s rise from poverty to power was likely inspired by the rags-to-riches history of his first biographer, Robert Lewis Dabney. Dabney’s own successes and Presbyterian beliefs probably shaped his account of Jackson’s life as much as any factual research. Many other authors inserted personal values into their stories of Stonewall, perplexing generations of historians and writers.

Subsequent biographers contributed their own layers to Jackson’s myth and eventually a composite history of the general came to exist in the popular imagination. Later writers, such as the liberal suffragist Mary Johnston, who wrote a novel about Jackson, and the literary critic Allen Tate, who penned a laudatory biography, further shaped Stonewall’s myth. As recently as 2003, the film Gods and Generals, which featured Jackson as the key protagonist, affirmed the longevity and power of his image. Impeccable research and nuanced analysis enable Hettle to use American culture and memory to reframe the Stonewall Jackson narrative and provide new ways to understand the long and contended legacy of one of the Civil War’s most popular Confederate heroes.